The Israeli High Court pushed for a “settlement deal” instead of approving the Sheikh Jarrah evictions thanks to the campaigning efforts of Palestinians.
An Israeli Supreme Court session on the expulsion of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem ended yesterday with no result, as both Palestinians and the settlers’ group rejected the so-called “compromise offer” made by the judges.
The session took place as a result of an appeal made by the Palestinian families in an attempt to prevent their planned forced eviction. Palestinians appealing to Israeli court might seem futile to the average outsider — and in most cases they are absolutely right — but in light of constant disadvantageous positions Palestinians have to endure, they don’t have many other options.
The arbitration made by the three high court judges — one of whom is a resident of an actual settlement in the West Bank, and as a result a violator of international law — suggested the 13 Palestinian families expected to be expelled from the neighbourhood pay an annual “rent fee” to a settlers’ holding company, and in exchange be protected from “eviction for the foreseeable future”, to quote the Israeli judges.
The families were willing to accept the arbitration offer, partly because the judges kept pressing them to think “pragmatically,” but only if they maintained the right to reject the settlers’ false claim of owning the rights to the land.
The Palestinians were right to worry that if they accepted paying the rent fee, although a small sum of about $500 a year, they would be accepting the settlers’ outrageous claims.
The settlers rejected the arbitration offer as well, claiming they wouldn’t settle for anything less than having the Palestinians admit to “the Jewish rights for the land,” according to their attorney.
The judges asked the two parties to come for another session soon.
The only good result of the session, in which the judges were aggressively clear on their attempts to “bridge the gaps,” is to prevent an escalation in the form of an actual near-future expulsion.
Although it was a very bad offer for the Palestinians, it was an attempt by the Israeli establishment to “climb down the high tree Israel has climbed on,” as a famous Israeli saying goes, and try to prevent their actual forced eviction in the next couple of years.
This is the reality of Palestinians: In the absence of real international interference and protection, they have to resort to the colonial court to seek justice, or to be more accurate, the crooked Israeli version of it.
This is anything but a “fair game.” Israeli judges, some of whom are extremely racist and some are settlers themselves (in other words: criminals according to the international law), hold the key to the futures of Palestinian families.
Racism in the Israeli legal system is a broad subject that can be elaborated. But in all fairness, the judges actually surprised me this time: they were highly attentive to the political struggle the families endured.
Unlike in past and somewhat less-known cases, the judges knew that if they didn’t show their version of compassion, a political escalation was imminent. Nobody in Israel wants a replay from last May.
And here lies the big success of the families: they have made this struggle so public and so well known throughout the world, mainly because of the brilliant Al Kurd twins. They have become not only symbols and icons of the Palestinian struggle but also international cultural symbols of resilience. The judges knew that very well.
They knew that if they didn’t try to arbitrate, Israel would be villainised again in the world. They knew the newly formed Israeli government, which still hangs by a thread, can’t at the moment endure an escalation. And perhaps more importantly: they knew it wasn’t in Israel’s favour to help make the families even bigger cultural icons.
Haaretz’s excellent journalist Nir Hasson claimed this morning the fact the families became a national and cultural symbols of the Palestinian “Sumoud” (Arabic for holding on to one’s rights and land), weighs on them and prevents them from being practical and accepting any compromises. He is wrong.
In light of the Israeli High Court’s problematic record (to say the least) when it comes to Palestinian rights, if it weren’t for the fact the families became incredibly famous, it is likely to assume the judges wouldn’t have aggressively pushed for arbitration, but instead simply given the green light for expulsion, just as they’ve done so many times in the past. The media work Palestinians did was a necessity and it is unfair to see it as an obstacle.
“Next time, we’re willing to rent Teddy Stadium (municipal Jerusalem stadium),” the head of the judges jokingly said at the end of the session. With dozens of media teams, many of them foreign, and hundreds of people present indoors and outside, the joke about holding the next session in a 33,000-seat stadium is a testament to the success of the Sheikh Jarrah struggle.
The settlers’ have the colonial and oppressive establishment, the Palestinians have the masses, including the international ones. No one can take that away from them. And the judges know this.
Rami Younis is a Palestinian writer, filmmaker and cultural activist.